Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Twin Cities governments to stop background checks.

Bidness: Why do liberal cities come up with the dumbest set of laws? In this case the idea behind this is to give people convicted of crimes a second chance by not checking on their background until they are qualified for the job. The usual way is on the application, you check a box and list your past offenses. The Twin cities decided to set an example for private businesses.

Both cities took steps in December to remove from initial job-application forms the box requiring disclosure of a criminal record. It's not that background checks won't be made; it's that they'll be conducted only if a position requires one and after the applicant has been found otherwise qualified. There are exceptions for certain job categories and other factors. So-called "remove the box" efforts like these are designed to encourage applications by qualified people who have a criminal record -- sometimes long in the past -- and to help rehabilitate job-seekers just out of prison. The latter desperately need two all-important ingredients for success: a job and social/family support. Three out of four people released from prison each year were there for nonviolent offenses, according to the National Employment Law Project. Depending on the offense and the job at hand, they might well be good hires. And, as time goes on, many will mature. As former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson put it, the applicant with a history could well be "someone who did something bad or stupid when they were 20, and now they're 30." Still, employment can be elusive once that past is disclosed. Johnson is president of the Council on Crime and Justice, whose 2006 report on reducing racial disparities in the justice system helped spur local action. He points out that barriers to jobs for people with a criminal record disproportionately affect people of color, particularly when it comes to lower-level offenses and arrests without convictions.

If I run a business, it save me time and money if someone lists their pass offenses and I dismiss their application right away if they are not someone I would want to work or put my other employees in harms way. What kind of "nonviolent" offense? Caught with drugs? Stealing merchandise and/or money? I shouldn't be able to check into that? Now for the twin cities they are hoping private businesses follow suit. In Boston being Boston, they have taken it much further.

Boston City Council Ordinance Of special significance, Boston's City Council ordinance (which took effect July 1, 2006) applies not only to hiring in city jobs, but also to the hiring decisions of an estimated 50,000 private vendors who do business with the City. The successful campaign to reform Boston's hiring policy was backed by broad community coalition called the Massachusetts Alliance to Reform CORI (MARC). According to the ordinance, the City of Boston and its vendors cannot conduct a criminal background check as part of their hiring process until the job applicant is found to be "otherwise qualified" for the position. This critical protection ensures that everyone is first considered for employment based on their actual skills and experience before the employer takes into account the presence or absence of a criminal record. The ordinance also requires that the final employment decision, which includes information about the individual's criminal record, also considers the age and seriousness of the crime and the "occurrences in the life of the Applicant since the crime(s)." In addition, the Boston ordinance creates important appeals rights for those denied employment based on a criminal record and the right to present information related to the "accuracy and/or relevancy" of the criminal record.

Philadelphia is even worse if it came into law.

City & County of Philadelphia On June 15, 2006, a bill was introduced in Philadelphia's City Council to strictly limit hiring discrimination against people with criminal records. Modeled after the Boston ordinance, the Philadelphia bill would require the employer to "first review the qualifications of an applicant and determine that an applicant or current employee is otherwise qualified for the relevant position before the Employer may conduct a criminal record check." The Philadelphia bill also goes further than the Boston ordinance by applying not only to city agencies and private vendors that do business with city, but also to all private companies employing more than 10 people within the City of Philadelphia. Click here for the bill, which is still pending before the City Council.

Both liberal/union heavy cities add an expense and waste the time of businesses to make some feel good policy to help people who did time. While there are people who regret doing stupid stuff in the first place and would probably make model employees. Businesses should not be force into this boondoggle of liberal bureaucracy that is lacking any sort of logical sense.

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